New Delhi: India, along with others, should learn hard lessons from the magnitude of the fallout from the Ukraine crisis. First, it proved that possessing a mighty nuclear arsenal does not earn you the desired respect and does not guarantee safety beyond a certain point.
Russia has been humiliated over the years, its security threatened by the relentless expansion of NATO and the rejection of its protests. Nuclear weapons are clearly not a deterrent against economic warfare, real economic muscle is needed for that. The lesson for India’s political and business class is to better understand our vulnerabilities and redouble our efforts on ‘atmanirbharta’.
Second, the structures of the existing “international order” are further breaking down. The United Nations is once again demonstrating its impotence to establish peace, which is not the same as countries scoring diplomatic points against each other in the United Nations Security Council or the Assembly general. Third, the Europeans themselves lamented the decline of multilateralism after the advent of Trump. Now the Europeans have joined the Americans in delivering a major blow to multilateralism by imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russia without declaring war, regardless of their adverse effects on the rest of the world.
The structures of the World Trade Organization (WTO) were already undermined by the United States under Trump. Today, with the US and EU withdrawing Russia’s MFN status, international trade rules are being seriously violated for purely political reasons. The idea of expelling Russia from the WTO and the IMF or, in the case of the latter, of not allowing it access to SDRs – whether this is feasible or not – shows the weakness of the inherent commitment of the West towards multilateralism.
Fourth, much is made of arguments about respect for the rule of law and respect for international rules. Unilateral sanctions by powerful countries without UN approval is an arbitrary exercise of power and rule-making by the strongest for other countries to adhere on pain of punishment. These sanctions have been applied by the United States and the EU to Russian parliamentarians for having voted lawfully on matters of national interest, even personally against President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov, members of the Security Council Russian national and Putin’s close entourage, as well as senior Russian officials. businessmen for the sin of being close to Putin.
The Russian Central Bank and major Russian banks were sanctioned, with Russia kicked out of the Swift system. Visa and Mastercard left Russia, as did the American and British oil majors. The United States has banned the import of oil and gas from Russia. American and European airspace has been denied to Russian airlines. Boeing and Airbus will no longer serve Russian planes. Property and funds held abroad by Russians have been confiscated without due process. The frenzy of sanctions includes Russians, including the disabled, of international sport. Russian conductors have been fired from their posts by Western orchestras for failing to condemn Putin for invading Ukraine. An economic and societal war has been declared on Russia. President Biden claimed in his State of the Union address that Russia’s $630 billion foreign exchange reserves had been rendered “worthless”. It is not clear under which provisions of a rules-based order or the rule of law these steps fall. The lesson here is that an entire ruling political, business and cultural class of a country can be treated like outlaws and subject to retaliation from the West if necessary.
Fifth, the lesson here is that the West controls the global financial system to the point that ownership of any assets that governments, private companies, or individuals of other countries hold overseas can be arbitrarily seized based on politics. The hegemony of the US dollar has been powerfully demonstrated in the case of Russia. The G-7 is once again in the driver’s seat, with the G-20 losing importance in stabilizing the global financial system. While China has been rightly criticized for weaponizing global supply chains and critical raw materials and sparking moves toward decoupling, offshoring, resilient supply chains, and more, the United States and the have gone much further in trying to comprehensively militarize finance, trade, investment and technology. . The blow to globalization and interdependence has been profound.
Countries can therefore be expected to develop alternative systems of international banking transfers and payment systems as well as defenses against US dollar hegemony by trading more in their respective currencies.
Sixth, the West’s double standards have become even more blatant. The United States and Europe react strongly when freedom of speech and expression is considered to be restricted in any country, including India, as we have seen in the case of the temporary restrictions imposed on Internet and social media at J&K after the Section 370 review and in other cases to limit the potential for violence. We now see that Russian television and media have been banned in Europe on the questionable grounds that they spread disinformation and fake news. This is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression and constitutes a form of censorship.
Seventh, the conflict in Ukraine shows the ability of the West to control narratives internationally on issues in which they have a stake, and to prevent any alternative narrative from developing. The West controls the international flow of information through its news agencies, mainstream media, social media and the Internet. Information warfare techniques have been developed in the context of hybrid warfare and they have been exposed in the case of the Ukrainian crisis where only one side of the story is heard even in India where the media does not broadcast reports and visuals only from Western sources. which are strongly negatively oriented against Russia. This contradicts the government’s balanced position on the crisis and undermines our broader national interest. There is a big gap between the government’s position on the crisis and its view of relations with Russia and the way in which the media project the conflict and the guilt of Russia.
Eighth, the role of US-controlled social media in the propaganda battle against Russia should be cause for concern. Meta makes an exception for calls for violence against the Russians for its invasion of Ukraine. It is a dangerous precedent that is created, because an exception made once can be made again. As things stand, concerns about hate speech, the use of these platforms to promote violence and even terrorism are real, including for countries like India. Social media cannot be allowed to set their own content rules outside the jurisdictions of the countries in which they operate. The need to regulate the operation of social media has become pressing.
Finally, we are heading towards a more divided and geopolitically and geoeconomically unstable world. Existing global structures that needed to be reformed anyway are crumbling. A new Cold War has begun. The paralysis of Russian power as a result of the crisis targeted by the West will create a vacuum that China will fill. Europe’s ambition to develop a certain strategic autonomy has been crushed with the rejuvenation of NATO under American pressure and internal European divisions. The United States is reaching out to China to persuade it not to support Russia on Ukraine and if it succeeds – for which China will draw a prize – the stage would have been set for a G2 world to which China sucks. This may have an impact on the Indo-Pacific concept and the Quad. India will now pursue an even more agile foreign policy to protect its interests in an increasingly difficult external environment.
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